Prevalence and Psychosocial Correlates of Food Addiction in Persons With Obesity Seeking Weight Reduction

Compr Psychiatry. 2017 Feb;73:97-104. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2016.11.009. Epub 2016 Nov 23.


Introduction: Food addiction is a controversial concept. The potential influence of food addiction on patients' psychosocial functioning and well-being has not been well established. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between psychosocial functioning (depressive symptoms and health-related quality of life [HRQOL]) and food addiction as measured by the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS). We also explored whether food addiction contributed additional variance in explaining psychosocial functioning, beyond demographic and clinical factors (e.g., binge eating).

Methods: The sample included 178 participants (mean age=44.2±11.2years; BMI=40.9±5.9kg/m2; 88.2% female; 70.8% Black) with obesity seeking treatment for weight loss. Participants completed the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey, Impact of Weight on Quality of Life-Lite, Patient Health Questionnaire, YFAS, and Questionnaire on Eating and Weight Patterns-5.

Results: Twelve (6.7%) participants met criteria for food addiction, with 4 (33.3%) of these participants having co-occurring binge eating disorder. After adjusting for covariates, the number of food addiction symptoms accounted for 6.5% to 16.3% of additional variance in general HRQOL, 5.0% to 21.5% in weight-related HRQOL, and 19.1% in symptoms of depression.

Conclusions: In this treatment-seeking sample of participants, we found a low prevalence of food addiction, suggesting that addictive-like eating is unlikely to be a causal mechanism for most people with obesity. However, individuals who met criteria for food addiction had reduced psychosocial functioning compared to those who did not meet criteria. Individuals with addictive-like eating may require additional psychosocial support.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / complications
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / complications
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / epidemiology
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology*
  • Body Weight
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life